Port guide: Limon, Costa Rica
For over a century, Costa Rica has been a peaceful country after eliminating its army in 1949 and improving medical and educational facilities; this contributed to winning Nobel Peace prizes. Take care in the town and streets though as it is not crime-free as most towns are.
The area of Puerto Limon is affluent with an Afro-Caribbean population speaking Spanish and Creole English; the people are friendly and welcoming.
Exploring outside of the port area is recommended, such as enjoying a shore excursion, as the port itself was hit hard by an earthquake in 1991 and has not fully recovered. Although Costa Ricans are known for their friendliness and hospitality, much of the beauty is seen in the surrounding areas.
This tropical country is known for its eco-diversity, nearly a quarter of its land has been dedicated to national Parks with staggering species of plants, almost 900 species of birds and about 10% of the world’s butterflies calling Costa Rica their home.
- Exploring Limon
Walking into town a few blocks, you will find an open-air market selling crafts and an array of goods including souvenirs.
Some of the items great to take home from this port include solid hardwood carved into designs or intricate jewellery boxes, leather goods and silver and beaded jewellery. Bartering is common here but you will find that most prices are very low to begin with. Keep in mind that the majority of stores in the area are catering to locals so if you are looking for souvenirs, stay near the tourist areas.
Playa Bonita, located 2.5 miles away, is a beautiful stretch of sandy beach and if you take a taxi here, make sure to arrange a ride back to the pier. There is a restaurant and bar at the beach and also crafts being sold, some that are unique compared to what you will find in the town area.
The Tortuguero Canals were created as a national park to protect the green turtle and the incredible plants and animals of this area. Other than a shore excursion, you can take a taxi to Moin, a three-mile drive, to board a boat for a tour up the canals, which are both natural and man-made. This is a great opportunity to view Costa Rican wildlife such as toucans, crocodiles and often monkeys in the trees; the Howler, Spider and Capuchin Monkeys all live in this area.
- Getting around
The Central Valley and around the area of the capital city of San Jose, is where the majority of the population lives and therefore the public transportation options are greater with plenty buses and paved roads. Many travellers spending time in Costa Rica begin at San Jose as there is more transportation to rural areas from there. Many locals do not own cars so public transit throughout the country is quite developed, even to remote towns, but much quicker to come and go from the capital rather than from small town to small town.
For cruisers, the red taxi’s are the best way to get around if you are leaving the pier and town area of Limon and are not on an organized excursion. The red taxis have their fares posted but not all drivers speak English very well so if you are looking for a guide as well as a driver, make sure to check before you hire the taxi.
There is a bus station located about 10 minutes walk from the ship and has buses that can take you to Cahuita for only $1 or Moin, the gateway to the Tortuguero Canals for even less, but they can be infrequent and often not worth the hassle. This applies for rental cars also; the roads in this area are not in great condition and traffic delays can be very common. For ease of travel, most visitors stick to taxi’s or organized tours.
- Beyond the port
A visit to the capital of San Jose, located 60 miles away, is great for any first time visitor to Costa Rica. Along the drive there, you can enjoy the countryside and see how locals live while stopping and passing through the small communities. You can visit the National park as well as the city centre to get in some shopping. Keep in mind that it can take up to three hours drive each way, leaving little time at your destination depending how long your ship is in port and is recommended as an excursion through your cruise ship.
Cahuita National Park, which is about a $20 taxi ride each way, is a nature reserve to discover some local flora and fauna as well as having beautiful beaches and natural coral reefs perfect for snorkelling.
- Popular shore excursions
Cruise lines that visit here offer the following shore excursions. Please check with your cruise line to see if they offer them and remember some excursions may be seasonal only!
Slow boat up the Tortuguero Canal
Take an excursion on a slow boat up the Tortuguero Canal, a waterway connecting rivers to the coastline that runs up to the Nicaraguan border; a great way to discover the unique nature and plants, birds, and animals, including possibly seeing the two-toed sloth. Considered a “don’t miss” opportunity.
Rain Forest Tramway
For a unique perspective on this lush area, take the Rain Forest Tramway, one of only three in the world. As you glide through the canopy of the rainforest you can discover the birds, plants and animals native to this area and learn about the secrets of this interesting place and its eco-diversity with the excellent, well-spoken guides that travel with you in each tramcar.
A sloth of a time
On 200 acres of land in the rainforest, is the rehabilitation centre for sloths. During a tour here, you can learn about their unique behaviour and habitat as well as discovering other animals like monkeys and many bird species including the Toucan. A walk into the rainforest allows you to learn about the fascinating medicinal and fragrant plants as well as tasting some exotic fruits.
- Local cuisine
Traditional Costa Rican food serves meals often centred around rice, beans, fried plantains, salad and picadillo, stewed meats and vegetables. Fish is a way of life and fresh catches are cooked in a variety of methods, each one more delicious than the next.
- Where you are docked
The ship docks at the busy cargo port right in Puerto Limon and the walk to the centre is an easy few blocks on flat terrain.
Within the port area, there is a craft market with a large selection of local handmade items at reasonable prices.
- Regional weather
Limon experiences typically high temperatures throughout the year. A monsoon season falls during what can be considered the winter months, January, February, March, April. The warmest, or hottest month of the year is usually August, with the coolset month of the year being January.